the Shortage of Faculty with PhDs in Accounting
- I would like to follow up on the article “Teaching for the
Accounting Profession : CPAs and PhDs,” by Myrna L. Fischman
(The CPA Journal, June 2007).
presented early in that article caught my attention, not only
for its clarity but for its forcefulness: “The practical
aspects of the profession that a student may encounter need to
be taught by the practicing CPA.” Additional points in the
article recognize the role of PhDs in the field, but strongly
suggest that teaching accounting in the academic world should
be the domain of CPAs. This continues to be a very relevant topic
because a great deal of literature indicates a nationwide shortage
of faculty members who have a PhD in accounting. Some efforts
underway to address the shortage deal with trying to have more
academically talented students pursue a PhD degree, rather than
move to the practice of accounting. However, the success of this
effort is marginal at best.
data element that has been gathered by the American Accounting
Association is that the most prevalent age of the current holders
of PhDs in accounting is 63. As this group ages out, there will
be a significant void to be filled. In the past few years, only
about 200 PhD degrees in accounting have been awarded annually,
nationwide. This dearth of degrees has some immediacy to it for
nationally accredited accounting programs. Also, my analysis of
the June 2007 “Listing of Doctoral Graduates by School,”
maintained by James Hasselback, shows that for the years 2004
through 2007, there were 432 doctoral degrees listed; of those,
100 also had a CPA. Thus, many of the recent doctorally qualified
faculty members do not possess the practical experience of those
with the CPA credential.
As a somewhat
radical approach to this problem, rather than asking, “How
can we get more students to pursue the PhD?” can we rephrase
the question to, “Can accredited programs be led by professionally
qualified faculty?” According to the Association to Advance
Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and American Collegiate
Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) standards, professionally
qualified faculty includes those who hold a master’s degree
in accounting and a CPA credential.
I will readily
admit that for the top-tier institutions that promote accounting
research as an academic goal, having a faculty with PhD degrees
is most useful and very appropriate. However, for institutions
that do not promote research, but focus their efforts on teaching,
I question whether a PhD degree is most useful. An institution
that focuses on teaching rather than research, and has faculty
members who are CPAs with practical experience in a variety of
settings, would seem to be very viable because of the real-world
examples the faculty members can bring to the classroom, and because
of their enthusiasm to teach the material.
to me that accrediting bodies such as the AACSB and ACBSP have
created a problem by specifying an accrediting standard (PhD)
when the supply of available faculty is ever decreasing. One possible
approach is to soften the standard that they created. An outgrowth
of the relaxed standard could be the movement of qualified accounting
professionals from the practicing world to the academic world,
without requiring them to spend up to four years getting a PhD
degree that would allow them to progress in the academic world.
It is acknowledged that in the higher-profile institutions, academic
progress is measured starting with a PhD, and is the key to academic
advancement. This completely ignores the experience that a practitioner
has, as well as the CPA credential, focusing only on an academic
achievement that may not really aid in the teaching aspect of
avenue to consider is the ability of certain institutions to offer
a PhD program on a part-time basis, or to consider a person’s
work history, as a way to waive some of the academic requirements.
If a PhD is still considered a necessity, something needs to be
done to make it easier to obtain, especially for those with other
professional qualifications and practical experience.
G. Amyot, CPA, CIA, CGFM
Associate Professor of Business
College of Saint Rose
I thank you for your
comments, and I agree with your insights. Many of the standards
set forth by the AACSB and the ACBSP seem to ignore the clinical
aspects of our profession. No one would expect surgery to be taught
by a person who has only academic training and no practical application
of the skills needed to be a practicing surgeon. This concept
is their same for attorneys and dentists. In addition, my research
has discovered that there are universities that accept students
into their PhD in accounting programs without requiring any previous
accounting courses, much less professional accounting experience.
They do, however, require that applicants have quantitative knowledge.
The losers in this environment are the CPA profession, the public,
and our students.
In the most recent
past, most if not all accounting professors were practicing CPAs.
These CPAs practiced their profession as well as taught in universities.
Some did have PhD degrees, most did not. As in any profession,
it is most important to keep up with current developments and
practices of the profession. The New York State Society of CPAs
does recognize outstanding CPAs in education with the Dr. Emanuel
Saxe Outstanding CPA in Education Award.
Perhaps it is time
for the AACSB and the ACBSP to allow a more realistic relationship
between the theoretical PhD and the clinical CPA professional
as appropriate university educators.
L. Fischman, PhD, CPA
Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, Brooklyn, N.Y.